Band and new president

Wallace D. Loh says UM’s Byrd Stadium should be renamed.

University of Maryland at College Park President Wallace D. Loh recommended changing the name of the university’s football stadium from Byrd Stadium, which honors a longtime university president who was a staunch advocate against integration, to Maryland Stadium.

The recommendation was made to the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, which has oversight of building names. The Board of Regents will consider this request at a hearing on Dec. 11.

“This is a difficult and emotion-laden issue,” Loh said in a campus-wide email announcing his decision on Dec. 7. “Any outcome will likely please few.”

Harry C. “Curley” Byrd was a former football player who taught English and history and served as athletic director, eventually rising to university president. Byrd was president from 1935 until 1954, a time when the campus grew significantly.

President Loh states in his campus-wide email that “President Byrd is rightly regarded as ‘Father and Builder’ of UMD over a 43-year career here, retiring in 1954. He dramatically increased enrollment, faculty, funding, and the size of the campus. He laid the foundation for today’s achievements. He earned his place in our University’s history.”

But he is also very well known for his opposition to racial integration in the beginning stages of the civil rights movement.

When Baltimore’s Parren J. Mitchell filed a lawsuit to be admitted to the university’s graduate school in 1950, Byrd issued an order to set up classes for him in Baltimore in hopes of thwarting the lawsuit. A court ordered that Mitchell be granted full status in College Park.

Mitchell went on to earn a master’s degree from College Park, teach at Morgan State, work in politics and win the election to Congress in 1970, where he would lead the Congressional Black Caucus. He died in 2007 at age 85.

In October, the Board of Regents unanimously approved renaming the Art-Sociology Building in his honor. On Dec. 3, the university held a ceremony to celebrate the newly renamed building in Mitchell’s honor. On hand that day was senior sociology major and activist Colin Byrd, who is not related to the stadium’s namesake. Byrd, with the aid of a megaphone, challenged President Loh referencing that only 1 percent of the university’s contracts in 2014 were given to Black vendors with Minority Business Enterprise status, which he described as a form of economic injustice. “That’s not acceptable, and I know you’re not going to answer, but I have to say this because you need to call this out for what it is, this is B.S.” Byrd said according to the Diamondback.

In an interview with the AFRO Byrd said “I think it goes down in the history of the University of Maryland as a turning point. Where we tell our athletes and recruits going forward that no longer will you have to play the sport you love within the symbolic shadows of someone who would have hated you.”

The outrage of buildings and monuments being named after pro-segregationist individuals on campuses is not isolated to the University of Maryland. On Nov. 18 the Black Justice League, a student organization at Princeton University, organized a 32 hour protest to improve race relations on campus which included occupying university president Christopher Eisgruber’s office. One of their primary demands was the removal of the name of President Woodrow Wilson, one of the university’s most honored alumni and a former university president, from buildings and schools on campus. Martin A. Mbugua, a spokesperson for Princeton, told the Washington Post that Eisgruber is listening to the students demands and that, ”The conversation about that will continue.”